Technology has undeniably made us more efficient, but it has come at the cost of interpersonal connections and mindfulness.
Technology was supposed to make things simpler; robots and computers were supposed to help us complete tasks and breeze through work so we can devote more time to what really matters – being with our families and friends.
Unfortunately, by adopting technology into our everyday lives, we inadvertently made it more difficult to sign off and disconnect, most notably from our professional responsibilities.
With your phone always at your side, it’s hard to ignore – or justify ignoring – work commitments; you’re always on call, and expectations have gone up. Our workload has not decreased, it has actually increased.
According to Bustle, four out of five employees complain about work-life balance issues, likely stemming from their inability to disconnect from work and reconnect with what makes us happy in the real world. A LinkedIn study found 70% of employees aren’t even disconnecting from work when on vacation!
We aren’t giving ourselves a chance to rest and recharge, which is hindering our performance at work. Your difficulty disconnecting from technology is hurting your restaurant management potential; thankfully, mindfulness training offers a cure.
What Is Mindfulness?
Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present.”
Pretty straightforward stuff. To be mindful is to clear your mind of all the chatter in order to give your full, undivided attention to what’s happening in this moment.
Seems simple, yet too often our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re caught obsessing over thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future rather than living in the present.
Over the years, I have dabbled with mindfulness training in an effort to become more present and a better restaurant leader. You’d be surprised at the benefits you can unlock by simply stepping outside the restaurant for a moment or closing the office door and practicing a few easy breathing exercises.
Before we dive into ways you may begin your own mindfulness training, let’s explore the benefits.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness Training?
Benefit #1: Mindfulness Training Will Help You Be More Present
It’s very difficult to be the spouse, parent, manager, or leader your team needs when you are not present and participating in the moment.
If you are busy thinking about a problem instead of listening to the person talking to you, your energy is split and you're not serving either person; you're just wasting time.
According to Inc Magazine, one of the top complaints that employees have about their boss is that they don’t listen.
If you find your mind wandering elsewhere during a conversation with a member of your restaurant staff, bring yourself back and even apologize to the other person. Let them know you lost track of them for a moment and ask if they would not mind repeating so you can be totally there for them.
Put yourself in their shoes – how does it feel to have a conversation with someone who isn’t listening or is visibly checked out? Not too good. You’d feel disrespected and unimportant, two reasons many employees leave their jobs.
Point blank: being present leads to increased productivity. (You also won’t have to waste time asking your restaurant staff to constantly repeat themselves.)
Benefit #2: Mindfulness Training Will Stop You From Constantly Reacting
How often do you stop to ask why you are doing something before doing it?
Restaurants are busy places and too often we are reacting to whatever is coming at us, putting out fires and solving whatever is most annoying to us at that exact moment.
It’s hard to move your business forward when you’re always playing defense.
Take a moment and ask yourself: Why am I always reacting? What is the root issue?
It likely stems from being overloaded and having your mind in too many places at once. This is the opposite of being mindful.
By being fully present in each and every moment, you’ll be able to directly address the situation at hand, solve problems on the spot, and anticipate new problems as they’re still in the forming stages.
Mindfulness has the power to transition you from playing a frantic defense to a strong, strategic offense.
Benefit #3: Mindfulness Training Will Make You More Creative
Operating a business requires both sides of your brain. Certain tasks require tactful strategic thinking (right brain), while other tasks require the creation of new ideas and strategies (left brain).
The restaurant industry is not only fast-paced, but oversaturated. In order to make your business stand out from the fold and thrive, not simply survive, restaurant owners and operators need to challenge themselves to always think outside the box with regard to ideas and execution.
If you find that you are not as creative as have been in the past or that ideas are not coming to you – and your business – need to change things up, mindfulness will allow you to clear your mind and allow it the space to think properly.
A busy mind is a crowded place where your creative juices can’t flow freely, a present mind free from constraints.
Benefit #4: Mindfulness Training Will Increase Efficiency
Of all the reasons people pursue careers in the restaurant industry, freedom is not usually one of them.
There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish everything a restaurant owner, operator, or manager needs to get done.
What’s so unique about a restaurant owner's role is that besides tackling operational duties vital to the health of the business – including employee scheduling, payroll, balancing budgets, cutting costs, and daily performance reporting – restaurant operators and managers also have to be on the floor delighting guests, building relationships, and putting out fires.
There are never enough hours in the day of a restaurant operator or manager. The thing is, if you were to analyze the amount of time spent getting lost in your thoughts, scrolling aimlessly through social media, or playing on your phone, it's amazing we get anything done at all during the day.
Productivity hack: Ever wondered just how many hours you’re spending on each of the apps in your phone? If you’re an iOS user, it’s pretty easy to find out.
Warning, you’ll definitely cringe at what you see.
To find out how much time you’re spending on each of the apps within your phone, click on the settings icon on your phone.
Next, scroll down to where you see "Battery" and click it.
On the next screen, you have the option to see which apps you’ve used most over the past 24 hours or over the past six days.
Set goals for yourself for disconnecting and decreasing the percentage next to each app on your most used list. Practicing mindfulness and training yourself in ways to be more present will help you reach those goals, stop wasting time, and increase your overall efficiency.
Benefit #5: Mindfulness Training Will Make You More Tolerant
Having patience in difficult situations is a key factor to gaining respect from others on your team and leading properly.
Snappy restaurant managers will always struggle when leading their team.
When that one little thing that you know is not that big of a deal sets you off, it's because you were already at your limits; that one little thing was just #146 on the laundry list of 145 things that are already bothering you.
Blowing up at your restaurant staff because you’re emotionally stretched too thin and dripping in stress is not OK. Stress is contagious, and one of the leading causes of restaurant death: your staff don’t want to work in a stressful environment and guests don’t want to eat in a stressful environment.
Though restaurants are often thought of as the ubiquitous pressure cooker work environment – check out Chef Chris Hill’s post on ways restaurant staff can de-stress at work – mindfulness training offers a solution to the stress.
Mindfulness training will equip you with effective tools and tactics to use when stress is running high and your blood is boiling over.
Benefit #6: Mindfulness Training Will Better Your Health and Mental Well-Being
Besides the benefits mindfulness training has with regard to your restaurant’s operations, there are also health incentives: According to a study conducted by Brown University, participants who had lower levels of mindfulness on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) had a 34% more likely to be obese.
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that healthier means wealthier: people who were in the healthiest 20% retired with three times the assets of the least healthy individuals.
That right there should be enough incentive to make you health and well-being a priority. A great place to start? Mindfulness training.
How Can I Start Mindfulness Training?
The human brain represents about 2% of our total body weight, but it requires about 20% of our oxygen intake to function properly.
In order to be your best, your brain needs more oxygen; one of the best ways to get more oxygen to your brain is through deep breathing exercises and meditation.
If you have never meditated and think the practice is reserved for monks sitting on a mountaintop for hours on end, you, your mind, and your body are really missing out.
Give this quick 5 minute meditation a try. You will experience a natural high from giving you body the oxygen it’s craving.
I think you will find that you can meditate almost anywhere; however, be aware the results become addictive and you will want to spend more and more time practicing meditation.
If the thought of mindfulness, meditation, intention and presence are not “top areas” you have listed for growth this year, that's understandable. However, if this article has piqued an interest, here are a few of the best apps, podcasts, and courses to kickstart your own mindfulness training and help you navigate this new world of being a more mindful restaurateur.
Best Apps For Mindfulness Training
Named App of The Year by Apple and given an Editor's Choice nod from the team at Google Play (and one of my personal favorites), Calm offers users a host of ways to become more mindful, including guided meditation, breathing exercises, and "sleep stories" to help you unwind into a deep sleep.
Calm is available for both Android and iOS, and even has an option for teams – like the one within your restaurant – to sign up and have access to their many zen offerings.
"Brilliant things happen in calm minds." Sign me up! Headspace's library is filled with hundreds of themed meditation sessions to help users destress, fall asleep quicker, and everything in between. Whether you have only a few minutes to spare or an hour to yourself (now that's luxury), Headspace has a session that will fit into your busy schedule, and even has mindfulness solutions for those caught in a moment of panic or intense anxiety.
Like Calm, Headspace has a "Headspace for Work" offering, where businesses and teams can sign up to access the platform at a discounted rate. (For example, the LinkedIn corporate team is a customer.) Headspace is available for both iOS and Android.
In five minutes, Stop, Breathe & Think helps users check in with themselves, become more present, and practice a mix of guided breathing and mindful meditation exercises to "create space between your thoughts, emotions, and reactions." For the busy restaurateur who's always on the go, SBT is a quick and easy way to incorporate mindfulness training into your hectic schedule.
Besides helping you feel good, they also do good: 10% of SBT's net revenue is shared with Tools for Peace, a non-profit organization aimed at helping at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
Best Podcasts For Mindfulness
After suffering a panic attack live on Good Morning America, host Dan Harris began to meditate to find some relief from the cluttered mind he'd accumulated along his career in journalism. His journey in mindfulness training ultimately led to his authoring the #1 New York Times Bestseller 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works -- A True Story, which he's since transitioned into an ongoing podcast under the same name, where he poses the following question to "smart people": Can you be an ambitious person and still strive for enlightenment?
Though not specifically about mindfulness training, WorkLife aims to help professionals "lead more creative, meaningful, and generous lives at work."
Hosted by Adam Grant, a member of Fortune's 40 under 40 elite, a New York Times bestselling author and professional coach who counts Google, the NBA and the U.S Army as clients, WorkLife explores unique work environments in each of it's episodes, chronicling how the team in question makes their workplace fulfilling and special. Grant's takeaways are tangible and actionable, and will breath fresh life into your own restaurant work environment.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
It is my hope that the benefits of mindfulness training will extend beyond the personal and into the professional by positively impacting your ability to lead in the restaurant.
Have you been practicing mindfulness training? What are some of your favorite apps, podcasts, and courses? Leave them in the comments below!